TORN CURTAIN

(1966)
With Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, Lila Kedrova, Hansjord Felmy, Wolfgang Kieling, Gunter Strack, Tamara Toumanova
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Reviewed by JL

     Some revisionists insist that Alfred Hitchcock's TORN CURTAIN is underrated and ripe for reevaluation, but other than about 15 worthy minutes out of 128, I find it to be a total snoozer. 

     The film stars Paul Newman as an American physicist who pretends to defect to East Germany in order to obtain the secrets of a leading communist scientist; Julie Andrews plays his fiancee who tags along without his knowledge.  On the plus side, the film contains a justly famous prolonged murder sequence, a quiet and suspenseful chase through a museum, and a reasonably tense escape scene at the end.  The downside is that the film is unrelievedly lethargic, marked by a talky screenplay and low-keyed acting.  The producers at Universal coerced Hitchcock into using Newman and Andrews, two expensive superstars whose salaries ate up nearly half of the film's budget.  They give capable performances, but both lack their usual flair and charisma.  The film also suffers from a distractingly inappropriate and chipper score by John Addison, a last-minute replacement for the great Bernard Herrmann, who was fired either at the behest of Universal or because of a falling-out with Hitchcock, depending on which version of the story you want to believe.  The supplemental material on the DVD release of TORN CURTAIN includes a few scenes set to Herrmann's score, all of which are greatly improved with music that fits the intended mood.  The use of Herrmann's score would not have been enough to elevate the film to classic status, but the available evidence suggests that it would have been much more endurable and enduring. ½ - JL

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